Our Equipment at this trip
Although we had not too much space in the camper van we had travel guides with us for every country we intended to visit. First you can quickly look things up and need not only rely on your navigation device, and you need not start your computer to access any digital information, first you do not have power everywhere or in some situations it is not advisable to get out your stuff in front of other eyes. So books are a must. This is a list of books we used:
Lonely Planet Tunisia (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet are the best guides for general travel information:
Lonely Planet Egypt (Travel Guide)
But there other guides worth reading and taking with you:
Books from this edition have very good graphics inside and provide background information also on ancient sites in Egypt.
A good choice again is Lonely Planet.
Lonely Planet Ethiopia, Djibouti & Somaliland (Travel Guide)
But there is Bradt as well, which is an interesting supplement, as it covers Djibuti and Somaliland as well.
Lonely Planet Ethiopia, Djibouti & Somaliland (Travel Guide)
A good resource is Lonely Planet:
Lonely Planet Kenya (Travel Guide)
If you plan to visit National Parks you should take a wildlife guide with you to identify the animals you spot:
East African Wildlife (Bradt Travel Guides (Wildlife Guides))
Good Bradt travel guide:
Uganda (Bradt Travel Guides)
A good read to know all about mountain gorillas:
Mountain Gorillas: Biology, Conservation, and Coexistence
For evening in your camper van you should read about Dian Fossey:
Gorillas in the Mist: A Remarkable Story of Thirteen Years Spent Living with the Greatest of the Great Apes
For Tanzanian wildlife you need no extra book as wildlife is more or less the same as in Kenya, but a travel guide is a good bet:
Tanzania Safari Guide: with Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and the Coast (Bradt Travel Guides)
Malawi (Bradt Travel Guides)
Zambia (Bradt Travel Guides)
Namibia (Bradt Travel Guides)
If you plan to combine Namibia and Botswana this is the better option:
Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia (Travel Guide)
Unfortunately there is no book about the Himba tribe which we can recommend!
There are plenty of books available for South Africa
This one covers the National Parks, which is good to make a decision which ones to visit:
The National Parks & Game Reserves of Southern Africa
One you should get BEFORE you plan a trip, as it has lots of useful information about planning the trip, which vehicle, how to prepare a vehicle and country overviews:
Africa Overland: 4×4
Which equipment depends largely on how you plan to travel. If you have not much time to cross Africa, you will not have the time for extensive cooking. So the best is to get some food along the road from food stalls, IF you like the African cooking. For those who want to prepare their own food, there is something to consider.
A very convenient method with gas cyclinders and two flame stove. Consider that the cylinders can only be refilled in major cities or the capitals, so an adapter set is an option. You get it in caravan or outdoor shops, but ask for systems in Africa. We used a South African bottle which could be refilled in many countries in Africa without adapter, but not in UGANDA, RWANDA, BURUNDI. And they do not work very well outdoors.
When we started we used Petrol as fuel, which is available everywhere but if you drive a diesel you have a separate jerrycan. And they do not work very well outdoors.
This is the one we used and we were really happy with it (but get spare generator, as they are nowhere available in Africa)
Coleman Unleaded Double Burner Fuel Stove – Green
You can use this with any kind of petrol, there is no need to get special petrol, but in that case you must clean the generator more often. It is also good to take an ignition paste (outdoor shops) which you put on the generator and when it has burned down you can start the stove without smoking, it burns blue from the beginning.
A very good alternative, which we found out later is Kerosene/Paraffin. In Kenya we found a commonly used stove made in China (that is the only problem, because the mechanics does not last long), but it burns immediately blue, thus not smoking and Kerosene you get at every petrol station. The Chinese model is not recommended, but there are proper alternatives:
This one looks very much like the Chinese one, but it seems the mechanic is better, but check it out:
Kerosene Stove Outdoor Stove / Kerosene Outdoor Camping Stove
This one works with different type of fuels, also kerosene, although expensive the company is known for good products:
Optimus Hiker+ Stove
Another lightweight solution:
Primus OmniFuel with 0.6L Fuel Bottle
If you love coffee, instant coffee is not a proper solution. You will need a coffee maker to get real coffee. We started with instant coffee as well, but soon got tired of it and tried several solutions.
Our first version was like that:
STAINLESS STEEL SHOCK PROOF GLASS COFFEE PLUNGER/MAKER
Although it made a lot of improvement to our morning coffee, it turned out that it breaks easily on this corrugated roads. Even when we wrapped it into towels, it was no solution.
Our second version is perfect and we still use it today:
It is shock resistant, makes perfect coffee, easy to handle and nothing breaks. Can be used on open fire as well only take care of the handle. Powder coffee you get everywhere in Africa in the bigger supermarkets. Be sure to take a bigger one, if you want to get two cups in one go, take at least one that says 4 – 6 cups.
It may sound exaggerated but if you have once bought meat in Africa you will know what we mean. You get beef everywhere at local butchers but it is slaughtered fresh and sold out every day. So the meat is tough. In Africa you can buy meat tenderizer, a powder which you put on the meat and let it there for a couple of hours. But with the pressure cooker it is easier but inspite that you have to cook it for at least three hours, even with the pressure cooker. Otherwise no chance to get it soft. We made good experience with this type:
Tefal SEB Authentic Stainless Steel 6 Litre Pressure Cooker
These handles are much better, because it is better to store in the car, better than the long handles. Try to find one with steel or wooden handles, as these can be used on campfire as well. 4 liter capacity is enough for two persons.
We can hear what you think:”They have turned completely crazy”. You might be right. BUT – People in Africa do not butcher like Western butchers, so half of a cow is hanging at the butcher. You do not buy by category, so the price for meat is the same no matter where it is cut from. 1 kg of beef is about 6 US $, no matter if it is meat with bone, steak (which means in Africa boneless) or filet – all the same price. Most of the time you just get little pieces with fat from all over the cow, or the butcher cuts out from anywhere, so the only choice you have to make a proper meal to mince it. Ready made minced beef is only available in big super markets in capital cities. So now the meat mincer comes in handy:
Heavy Duty Meat Mincer Hand Operated New Cast Iron Grinder
This is the only solution that works. Stay away from plastic ones or alloy they do not survive African beef. But beef quality is awesome according taste.
HAND HELD BLENDER
Not a necessity but a commodity to prepare veggies or fruit juice.
Bosch MSM6300GB Hand Blender and Accessories
Look at the Watts – should not have too much as electrical systems are weak in Africa!
Believe it or not you will need this. In Africa they sell eggs per piece and not pre-packed. Usually if you buy 6 eggs they put it all together in a plastic bag, most of the time you have broken one when you return from your shopping. LooK:
Portable Folding Plastic Egg Carrier Holder Storage Container for 12 Eggs – Orange
We really tried a lot of things until we found a good solution to our demands.
First we tried petrol lamps:
Coleman Northstar Single Mantle Fuel Lantern – Green/Black
Advantage: They make really bright light.
Disadvantage: The generator quickly gets dirty and you need a lot of spare mantles, because on the rough roads the mantles tend to get broken, thus useless, so you have to exchange the mantle frequently.
They make a lot of noise when burning.
Next was battery light:
We mounted one in our camper van, which was connected to the second battery, but we could not move it out, so we could not use it outside. Worked quite well for a long time, but bring spare pulps.
Similar to this one:
Maypole 82907 12V Ceiling Lamp
Finally we ended up with this type:
Toolzone Large Paraffin Oil Hurricane/Storm Camping Lantern
It is available everywhere in Africa for less than 1 US$ and it gives nice light and is enough for dinner outside.
Which is ABSOLUTELY necessary in Africa are head torches. There are numerous reasons why:
Electricity is not always available and suddenly you are in the absolute dark, finding your way to the toilet without lights can be annoying and life threatening (snakes, lions, hyenas….). They are comfortable and you get your hands free. Have a look:
We had made very good experience with the brand Petzl (I think Austrian based), although they are expensive they are worth every cent:
Petzl Tikka 2 Head Torch – Storm Gray
WATER – DRINKING
For drinking you can buy bottled water which is sometimes expensive, depending on the country. That is what we did in the beginning, but soon changed to filter our own water. There are a lot of water purifiers on the market, tablets or liquid which you put into the water or mechanical filters.
a) Chemical products
We tried different brands:
Micropur – we did not like the taste
Certisil Certinox – was quite good and cheap
BEFORE you leave try different brands. We made good experiences with liquid that has to be added to the water by drops and was completely tasteless.
b) mechanical filters
Katadyn water purifiers:
Water Purification Tablets
They are simply the best and the most expensive. Most of them you have to pump into a clean bottle, which can be a hassle, so tried to get one that you can submerge in a bucket and let it filter by gravity like this one:
You fill it with water put it on your roof rack, put the hose in a bottle and let it do its job overnight. In the morning you have perfect water.
We used an Idnian brand called Tulip, which we were able to buy it in Tanzania and we loved it. You could clean the ceramic part really easily, but not available in Europe.
WATER – WASHING YOURSELF
Ablution blocks vary widely in quality, more are really bad, the good ones are rare. What most of them lack the possibility to put your cloth somewhere or your bag with your soap, shampoo, toothpaste, shaving stuff. So a toiletry bag is a must. There are different ones, beauty cases are a no go. The best ones are those which have something to hang it on a nail or but it on a door (if there is a door at the shower). Look at this:
Sea To Summit Toiletry Bag – Midnight/Slate, Small
FOR MEN: Start early enough to change to wet shaving, you will not find any possibilities to shave electrical.
FOR LADIES: Get your lady shaver at home, they are not common in Africa and you get it only in capital cities at food chains for a very high price. African women use simple razor blades.
WATER – DISHWASHING
Believe us, there are nowhere such disgusting sinks as in Africa, if available at all. So get yourself a foldable wash basin like that:
Foldable Wash Basin Footbath Sink Water Bag Outdoor Camping Hiking 8.5L
There are different sizes, get the biggest you can, because you can put the dishes into it and carry it to the water tap. Pay attention that it has got handles!!!
This water bucket is also comfortable, you can also use it to put your water filter in it:
Sport Camp Bucket Water Container Wash Kit Collapsible Sink Yellow, 16L
WATER WASHING CLOTHES
There are very rare occasions where a campsite or lodge has a washing machine, so you will end up to wash your cloths yourself.
One quite comfortable way is to buy a big bucket with waterproof lid. This is a posh System:
Good Ideas Compact Mini Washing Machine (644) Economical, space saving mini washer. Ideal for baby clothes, delicates.
The easy way:
Get something like that:
30 Litre airtight storage container
Put your cloth into it together with water and washing powder and store it on top of your vehicle or inside if you have space. Let the road do the washing for you. Due to the bad roads the container is shaking all day long thus working similar to a washing machine.
To be honest, we had one and we used it. It was comfortable when travelling in densely populated areas or if you have diarrhea:
Thetford Porta Potti Toilet Qube 145 Grey with Manual Pump New for 2012
But you need the chemicals as well, which you have to find space for, as you must bring all your supplies from home. There is only one shop in Nairobi, that sells it ocassionally.
Thetford 1.5L AQUAKEM & RINSE DUO PACK
We found out that the special toilet paper is not necessary, it works with normal paper as well, but buy the cheapest as this rottens quicker.
OUR best advise is:
GET USED to the toilets in Africa. They are really bad, the Arabic version is most of the time okay and you do not get in contact with the toilet but you need some muscles in your legs. The description of African toilets would fill an own book, we leave it to your imagination and do not get into details here. Just get used to it – it is possible.
There are lots of choices, but we consider a proper fridge as one of the most important things on such a trip. For some time we did not have any, so we know what we are talking about. Without fridge you do not get cool drinks easily, because people in Africa often do not have a fridge, or have no electricity to operate their fridge, so most of the time you do not get a chilled beer. The other thing is, that you can not buy food everyday, so you have to store meat or other stuff for at least three days, so a capacity of 45 liters for two people is necessary.
Gas operated fridge – just forget – to much gas which is difficult to get and they do not cool properly due to the road conditions
Electrical fridge – powered on 12 Volt often with a fan – again just forget – cool down a maximum of 20 degrees difference to the surrounding temperature. Outside 40 degrees – in the box 20 degrees – provided you have a large second battery. You got what I mean!
Compressor fridge – these are the only ones, that really work, independed if you have already driven for hours in the heat in a track with an inclination of 45 degrees. You hardly drive somewhere even. These fridge also survive the bumps and corrugation, but not all brands.
When we started we had a WAECO like this one only in 45 liters:
Waeco CF-35 coolbox
After a year on the road it was finished. First the 12 Volt power unit broke down, later the 220 Volt Unit as well – just not suited for Overland Africa.
There is only ONE brand that works: ENGEL. Have a look:
When our WAECO broke down, we were able to get a second hand ENGEL, which was already a couple of years old and heavily used when we bought it and we use it now for two years and it works without any problems!!!
The best ones are from GARMIN. You can load Garmin maps or tracks4Africa or open map source maps.
Garmin nuvi 2595LMT 5″ Sat Nav with UK and Full Europe Maps, Lifetime Map Updates and Traffic Alerts and Bluetooth
Any of the Nuevi family would do the job.
Soon to come: